Harry Taylor barged his way through the crowds towards his train. Evening rush hour did nothing to improve his temper. He had been seething all afternoon since he got the phone call from his wife. There would be hell to pay when he got home.
He couldn’t get a seat on the train (of course) and had to stand nose by armpit all the way. The summer heat was unbearable. Sweat soaked the back of his shirt and there was no room to turn around to remove his jacket.
At last the train pulled into Brocklehurst South. In ten minutes time he would be home. Then the drama would begin. He removed his jacket and carried it under one arm. In the other hand he carried his briefcase. It was light because it had nearly nothing in it. He had it to impress the neighbours. Let them think he was “something” in the City, he thought. Better that than they know the truth.
He crossed the road from the station, turned into Acacia Avenue and followed it until it dog-legged. Then he took a left into The Avenue. The air was clear in the tree-lined suburb. A fellow could breathe here; not like on the train, or in the City.
Everything was quiet, most residents of The Avenue kept themselves hidden from their neighbours. Some houses were large and detached from the rest of the world behind hedges or gates. The Taylor house was more modest; semi-detached with a garden, big enough for his family’s needs, but no different from hundreds of thousands such houses across suburbia.
The front door was ajar. His wife was waiting, anxiously, her ashen face betraying her torment. He gave her a perfunctory peck on the cheek; he thought she deserved as much. He left his briefcase in the hallway, hung his jacket on a hook and eased his necktie off.
His wife followed him into the kitchen and watched nervously as he took a coffee mug, half filled it with lukewarm water from the tap and gulped it down. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and spoke. “So, where is he?”
He noticed for the first time that his wife had been crying. The redness in her eyes deepened as she snapped a reply, “Skulking, in his bedroom.”
Harry puffed out his cheeks. There would have to be a confrontation. What if he called his son to come down from his room and face him and he refused to do so. What then? He exchanged silent glances with his wife. Harvey was twenty years old and a few inches taller than his dad; and a lot less heavy. In a fair fight Mr Taylor wouldn’t stand a chance.
“What are you going to do about it?” His wife’s tone was accusatory, as if it was her husband’s fault their son was a thief.
“He needs a damn good leathering,” Harry had been thinking about it all afternoon.
“He’s a bit old for that, isn’t he?” his wife was unconvinced.
“Well, what do you suggest?” Harry’s hands shook. His wife had no answer. She still couldn’t take it in. It was a nightmare. The police had called that afternoon in broad daylight. With a search warrant – for the whole house. It took an hour and twenty minutes. She had timed them and all the while nosey Mrs. Brackett in the house across the street stood at her front window twitching the lace curtains.
The police found what they were looking for. Stolen car parts. Car parts. Mrs. Taylor was astonished. Of all the things a person might want to steal, why the hell chose car parts?
At last she answered her husband’s question, “There’s nothing we can do really, is there?” she sniffed.
Harry puffed his cheeks. “No, we can’t just let it go. He deliberately planned to steal these things and hide them in our house. It was planned. Meticulous.” Harry felt absurd even as the words flowed from his mouth. It was as if he was describing a bank heist or a jewel theft. “It’s not as if he stole on the spur of the moment. Like taking a Mars bar from the newsagents.”
His wife had no answer to that. There would be a court case. Harvey would get a fine, or a community service order. Or possibly, both. “Oh”, she gasped at a sudden realisation, “It’ll be in The News, everyone will read about it.”
The stuck-up neighbours in The Avenue would have a field day. She remembered Tommy Burstow at number ninety-two. He had been convicted of taking and driving away cars. It was the main topic of gossip in the street for days and she had contributed more than her fair share of it.
Harry wanted revenge. Retribution. Vengeance, even. Harvey would have to pay. He would have to take a leathering or he could pack his bags and go. He was twenty years old, he had a job in an insurance office, he could find himself a room somewhere.
“I’m calling Frank. I’ll see if he can bring Paul, I can’t do this on my own.” He told his wife who wearily nodded her assent.
Harry’s brother Frank was appalled. “If it was my boy, I’d tan his arse and kick him out of the house.”
Frank and his brother Paul were in The Avenue within the hour. They listened appalled as Harry once more detailed his son’s crime. A black, wide, heavy leather belt lay on the dining room table. Harry tested is weight in his hands. He had never used it for anything other than its intended purpose, but he reckoned it would pack a punch, if only he could get close enough to Harvey to swing it.
Harry put the strap down and shuffled to the foot of the stairs. “Come down Harvey!” he called, “I want a word with you!”
The twenty-year-old curled up on his bed, clutching his pillow to his chest. “A word”, his dad wanted more than “a word”. He had seen Uncle Frank’s BMW pull up in front of the house. His cousin Terry had told him about Uncle Frank. This was not going to end pleasantly.
Harvey heard his father call once more. He put the pillow over his head, but he could still hear.
“C’mon” Frank nodded to Paul, “Let’s go and fetch him down.” Harry grunted.
Moments later Harvey was manhandled down the stairs. His shoeless feet slipping and sliding against the carpet as he failed to stop the two men dragging him into the living room.
“Fuck off! Leave me alone!” Harvey heaved his shoulders, but with two heavy men, one holding each arm, he was going nowhere.
“Watch your mouth,” Uncle Frank twisted the boy’s arm, cranking his shoulder. Harvey yelped with the pain.
Harry stood impassively watching. His son’s eyes were bloodshot; he had shed a bucketful of tears already. The boy was bulky, but not as weighty as his two assailants. Tattoos completely covered both arms.
“Here,” Frank had taken compete control. With Paul’s help and despite Harvey’s continual effing and blinding the boy was bent face down over the table. He wriggled, writhed and kicked his legs at his jailers, but he was overpowered.
In all the mayhem, Harvey’s denim jeans had risen up his buttocks and clung tightly to his cheeks. Frank could clearly see the outline of the boy’s crack.
“These jeans are too thick,” Frank looked across at Harvey’s dad, but did not wait for permission. “C’mon Paul,” he said as he jerked Harvey to his feet. “Harry,” he called to Harry, “undo his belt, take the jeans down.”
Without thinking, Harry stood behind his son and reached around the boy’s waist. He was rewarded with a kick in the shins. Undeterred, the belt was soon undone and buttons and zipper fly released. Harry had intended only to lower the jeans but Harvey twisted and turned so much, his boxer shorts slipped down over his buttocks. Harry helped them on their way. Now, bare-arsed, Frank and Paul toppled him back over the table top.
Harry stood emotionlessly. This was not his son spread-eagled across the table. It was a stranger. Harvey had not been raised to be a thief. Mr Taylor didn’t want an explanation. He had no desire for mitigation. He lifted the heavy leather strap and crashed it against his son’s quivering buttocks. A sunset strip seared across Harvey’s bum and the twenty-year-old yelped like a little whipped puppy. Frank and Paul pressed him further down into the wooden table top.
Another swipe landed a little lower. Harvey banged his head up and down and kicked his legs. All attempts to escape were futile. He was held face-down and bottom-high and he was staying there until his dad and his uncles said so.
Whack-whack-whack! Harry had no idea how to spank a boy. He had never been beaten as a child and, unlike Frank, had never felt it necessary to wallop any of his children. He worked on instinct. A spanking had to hurt, he reckoned, that was the point of it. So, he whipped the leather into his son’s spongy bum over and over again. It was crimson in no time. Stripes criss-crossed the buttock cheeks. Some went east-to-west; others north-to-south, forming ridges.
Harvey soon gave up swearing at his attackers. He had no breath, his lungs were empty. He huffed and puffed and coughed his guts up. Tears washed his face, vomit stuck in his throat.
Looking back later, Harry was surprised he was so calm. It was, he told his wife, like an “out-of-body” experience. He was looking down at the scene as someone else leathered the arse off his son.
Harry crashed another six, hard and at speed, into the fleshiest part of Harvey’s cheeks. The boy roared. Snot cascaded down nose. His face and neck were as scarlet as his bum, sweat soaked his hair. His temples pulsated.
“Let him go.” Frank released his grip and Paul followed. Harvey sprang to his feet like jack-in-the-box released. Not waiting to pull up his jeans and pants, he stumbled from the room. His dad heard him stumbled and fall as he struggled to mount the stairs.
Harry rested his belt on the settee and moved to the cocktail cabinet. He poured three stiff whiskeys.
Paul took a long sip and then looked at up at the ceiling. “He deserved all he got.” He took another sip, “Serves him right for getting caught.”
Frank nodded his agreement and downed his drink in one.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second